My struggle with depression and anxiety. And how it changed me as a nurse.

My struggle with depression and anxiety                     

Depression is something I have struggled with since I was a teenager. At the time, I really didn’t understand that it was depression I was struggling with. It wasn’t until I was 20 years old, that I finally realized that there was something wrong. After the birth of my first son, I was diagnosed with post-partum depression. I remember when I heard the words leave my doctor’s mouth, “You’re struggling with depression.” I felt relief and ashamed. I was relieved because there was finally a name for what I knew was wrong. Unfortunately, at the time, I felt like I had caused the depression. I felt weak and worried about the stigma that would be associated with my new diagnosis. I didn’t tell anyone for a long time other than my husband and close family. I didn’t want anyone to know, which just added to my shame.

When I went to nursing school, I was worried when people found out I suffered from depression, they would think I couldn’t care for clients. Most people with depression care too much, and therefore they get so overwhelmed. Many put others before themselves, which causes them to lose themselves, and depression can sneak in. So, I never really spoke about it in nursing school either. I looked forward to my psychiatric rotation to learn more about the illness that had inflicted me. Attending nursing school made me realize that depression was not my fault. In fact, it runs in families and is considered a disease, illness, or condition, depending on who you talk to. It is not that your weak or caused it in some way. That was probably one of the biggest reliefs of my life. I finally understood that I have an illness that I need to manage.

Depression and its symptoms have been searched on Google so much, that Google has partnered with the National Alliance of Mental Health (NAMI), to make depression screening a part of your Google search. It is important that symptoms are recognized and reported to your doctor. When I finally wised up myself as my post-partum depression lingered. I was told I had clinical depression. This meant I was faced with a lifetime of symptom management. In the beginning, I didn’t really understand this. I would take my medication for a while. Then I would think to myself, “I am feeling so much better so I might not need these pills after all!” So, I would stop taking them. Then life would happen, and I would find myself struggling again with the symptoms of depression.

Eventually, through therapy, I found out I had terrible coping skills and learned some more appropriate ways of coping. Basically, I had no coping skills. I also learned how to spot my symptoms early. This helped me so much because my biggest fear was hospitalization or worse, death. I wanted to be able to understand my symptom’s and be able to manage them before they were out of control. I finally submitted to the idea that I was going to have to take medication for depression all my life. I swallowed my pride on this one and realized it was something my body needed.

I was doing pretty good at managing my symptoms. Like with any illness, there were relapses, but I was prepared for them. Then a perfect storm started to brew in my life. Looking back, I should have seen the storm sooner. I had just graduated nursing school with my Associates in nursing. I was finally a Registered Nurse (RN)! After I graduated from the Licensed Practical nursing (LPN) program, it was a goal of mine for many years. I also wanted to start working in an acute care setting because I wanted the experience. I received an acute care position and was on cloud nine for a while. I soon realized, at least for me, that the acute care environment was extremely stressful. I started to struggle with anxiety. I couldn’t sleep at night before my shifts. My days off were spent dreading going back, because of the stress and anxiety. I kept myself in this position for too long. My health started to decline. My blood pressure was high, and my doctor told me to either de-stress my life or start taking blood pressure medication. So, I finally decided to find another place of employment. I found another nursing job that wasn’t in a high-stress environment. It was more community health/public health nursing and it really worked for me. I went back to the doctor and my blood pressure normalized! I was in a new position and starting to learn a new specialty. For a short while, things were getting back to normal. Then my personal life fell apart, in a huge way.

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Photo by Fabian Møller on Unsplash

My mother became very ill. She had pneumonia, that turned into septic shock. Her infection had worsened, and her blood pressure plummeted. Her organs started to fail as her body struggled with the infection. She went into respiratory distress and could no longer breathe on her own. She was placed on a ventilator, a machine that breathed for her. Her kidneys started to fail. They put her on medications that saved her organs from failing but had the potential side effects of her losing a limb. I watched helplessly as my mother and a best friend struggled for her life. She moved from facility to facility as they tried to wean her off her ventilator, so she could breathe on her own. She ended up with a feeding tube and a trache. Eventually, she had to learn to walk again.

Through all of this, I become the legal guardian of my disabled brother. My brother has down syndrome. He came to live with me. I always knew that this would eventually happen, but it just came a lot sooner than I expected. So, we were adjusting our lives to become a family of 5! Through all this, I continued to work. I tried to be strong and pretend everything was fine, but my body finally couldn’t take the stress. My anxiety intensified, and I started having panic attacks that woke me out of my sleep. I became really depressed and found it harder to get out of bed and complete the simplest task. I ended up having to take some time off work, to help heal. With this was more stress, because I am the main income of our family. So, it wasn’t an easy decision. I leaned on my faith and prayed to God that he would provide. I know I needed the time off, but how bills were going to be paid was frightening!

The time off was really what I needed. Currently, I haven’t had any more panic attacks! It has been almost a year since my mom became ill. We are now looking forward to her possibly coming home. Now we will be a family of 6! I have found my stride again. Rachel has got her groove back! I am playing catch up on bills. For some reason, they didn’t go away, ha! I am back to work and have a new-found passion for nursing!

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Photo by sydney zentz on Unsplash

How it changed me as a nurse

Depression comes with a stigma and many people are ashamed or frightened to say anything. This can cause a delay in treatment and host of other problems. It is important for me to get my story out there to hopefully inspire others to be more forthcoming, and bring down the stigma.  I feel that having depression myself, has made me a more compassionate nurse. I feel through my personal experience with depression, I am a better listener, and my patience is better. It has made me more open and approachable. Most of my patient’s sense this about me and tend to open up to me.

For me personally, as a nursing professional, it was harder for me to really be open about my struggles with depression. I didn’t want others to be judgmental or think it would hinder me from doing my job. It’s no secret among nursing friends and other medical professionals, that depression and anxiety are prevalent. I tell my patients not to be ashamed and to beat the stigma. Yet I never followed my own advice. So, it is time for me to not be ashamed and own who I am. It does not define me. It is only a small part of who I am.

 

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

To conclude, I hope anyone who suffers from depression and anxiety is to know your not alone. Our story isn’t over because of an illness. We must manage it and grow from it. I took my illness and found the positive. It has made me a better nurse, more understanding, compassionate, gave me patience, and I became a better listener. There have been dark times and suspect there will probably be a few more in my life. But now I understand more about my illness and have reached a point in my life, where I am more mindful and understand the importance of taking care of myself. This has helped me to be better equipped to care for others.

7 signs your experiencing nurse burnout

Do you really need to know the signs of nurse burnout! I think so! Having experienced it myself, I have found that it can really sneak up on you! Then you’re left with confusion, exhaustion, and you don’t know what to do! So here are 7 signs your heading for nurse burnout! And of course, all of these or just some of these might apply. If anything it might raise a red flag that something is a miss and you need to take heed! Also, am I in no way suggesting you quit your job, or nursing for that matter. I just want you to know the signs of burn out, and how to recognize the symptoms. You can do this by taking a break from your job if you can like a vacation, talking with someone, or maybe a job change is in order. That is okay! If you’re like me, you cant afford to up and quit, I would think most people couldn’t do that. But it can help to look at different specialties and see if a change could help!

1) Are you calling in a lot from work? So have you called in so much your starting to run out of excuses, and you start using some really weird ones like ” My dog has the flu” ” I can’t come to work because I’m stuck in the house” or maybe ” I tried a new recipe from the Food Network, and it was a fail, now I have food poison”. Well, in theory, some of these could be valid excuses, but really if you see the increase in calling in and the dread of going to work, you could most likely be burned out.

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2) Your tired, not just the, I stayed up late and watched Game of Thrones tired. I am talking no amount of sleep can cure this tired. When I get stressed I can sleep for over 12 hours and still not feel like I got any rest. Especially on days after I work. This can also be a warning sign of nurse burnout. Of course, it can also be you can’t sleep! I have also been through this. It seems to be a cycle of no sleep, then excessive sleep. It is important that you get the rest you need, but if you feel like you just can’t get enough, then it is worth thinking about nurse burnout as the cause.

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3) Anxiety, panic attacks, and depression oh MY! This is a sign for sure something is not going right in your life. It could be nurse burnout. If you haven’t experienced a panic attack consider yourself lucky! They are horrible. Mine started this year, mostly in relation to things happening outside of work, but it didn’t help with my nurse burnout. It is important for you to slow down and really find out why the anxiety, panic attacks, and depression is happening. Especially if this is a huge change for you. Sometimes there can be no specific triggers, but you need to take care of yourself regardless. It just might mean taking a break, talking to a counselor, or medication. Whatever it takes to take care of you!

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4) Sickness, sickness everywhere! Are you getting sick more than usual? This is a big sign from your body telling you something is wrong. Stress over time can run down the immune system which will leave you getting sick all the time. I noticed I would get colds all the time. One would end and another would begin. It was miserable! If you start noticing you’re getting sick a lot see your doctor of course, but you might want to reassess the stress in your life also.

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5) Has your family used terms like mean and irritable to describe you? Maybe some other colorful language! Well, personality changes can be a direct result from nurse burnout. Sometimes your family and friends are the first ones to pick up there is something not quite right. I remember my son asking me if I had a good day or bad day at work, every-time I got home. I asked him why he does this, and he said he could tell my mood was changing, and if I had a bad day he didn’t even bother to ask me something. That was a wake-up call! Especially, when I started having more bad days than good!

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6) You absolutely dread going to work. We all have days where we don’t want to go to work. I am talking so much dread you can’t sleep, or you fantasize about running away. On my way to work one time I drove by an airport. I thought to myself, I could totally buy a one-way ticket to just about anywhere, and get out of work. Of course, I went to work, but it made me realize, wow! I need a change!

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7) Feeling under appreciated is also a common sign. Some of this is normal, but when it gets to a point were your feeling more underappreciated than happy, it could be nurse burn out. Nursing is a thankless job. When we do get a thank you it’s awesome. Or if someone tells you your a great nurse, wow! Maybe, even those compliments are going in one ear and out the other. Because you’re burned out, you focus more on the negative and the positive you miss! This could also be a red flag that you are in or heading for nurse burnout. Of course, it does take some examining, because it could just be the work environment your in. Either way, some assessing, and change could need to take place.

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I hope some information was learned about nurse burnout and how to recognize the symptoms. Nurse burnout should not be ignored because the symptoms and warning signs will just increase. It is my hope for you, that you catch it early and take care of yourself. We need good caregivers and in order to keep them, we need good caregivers taking care of themselves. That was a long hard lesson for me to learn!

It is easier to have faith in God when things are good! But what if they are not good?

When things are going good in your life and there are very few troubles. It is easy to sit back and think “I got this” and pull away from God. I have been there countless times in my life. It’s not that I stop believing, I just stray a bit. It is kind of like when your child goes off to college, and calls once in awhile if they need something, or stop in to say hey, and then move on. So I would thank God for my blessings, maybe pick up prayer a little more if I sensed trouble, and go on with life. My visits at his house (church), would become less frequent. I started making less and less time for him, but I felt like my faith was strong, because everything was great!

When tragedy strikes it can overwhelm you and really catch you off guard! Then becomes the true trial of faith. You start to question God, Why me? I am faithful? And maybe even start to place blame. The truth of the matter is we live in a very imperfect world. This life is hard and there will be tragedies and heartache. As humans we have the gift of free will, but with this gift comes down sides, as we can see many of them playing out in the news daily. God uses these moments to pull us closer to him if we will let him. God is a our father, and like any father he wants what is best for his kids. If we make a poor decision, then God will use this to help us grow as a person if we let him.

So when things are not going to good, it helps to lean on God! That is what we are supposed to do. I know I have had to a lot lately. My mother got very sick in January and my whole life changed. I almost lost her! She was on a ventilator (a machine that breaths for you), and they couldn’t get her off of it. So they had to move her to a special facility that was about 2 hours from home. I made that trip 2-3 times a week, and also tried to hold down my job. My mother also took care of my older brother, who has down syndrome. He came to live with my husband, 2 kids, and I. My brother made the trip with me to see our mother. There was many times we weren’t sure if she was going to make it. It was an emotional roller coaster. I work night shift and I got a call from the hospital that my mom had a possible stroke! There was nothing I could do, but wait for a phone call to see why she had become unresponsive. Since mom was so sick, I became legal guardian of my brother, so I could legally make decisions for him.

So I was caring for my mother, my brother, working in a caregiving profession, of course my 2 kids, and finally it just all came down on me. I became burned out! My husband was there to help out. He has been absolutely amazing through all of this. He had open arms when my brother came to live with us. He also stepped up in many areas. Without his support, I probably would of had a full on nervous breakdown.

I had taken a new job, and had to step away and tell them I was burned out. I didn’t know what I was going to do for money, but I couldn’t go to work the way I was feeling. We struggled with bills, and it was, and still is a trying time. It was during this time, I became closer with God. I read in my bible, had prayer, and even meditated. I had neglected myself for so long, that my body finally just said enough is enough. With all this going on in my life I had 2 choices. I could blame God for my sorrow or grow closer to him. I chose to grow closer to him, and I am so glad I did!

My mother is now closer to home. She is in a rehab facility, and she is working on coming home! That is my home, because she wont be able to live by herself. I have seen what the power of prayer has done in my life. My mom has been back from the brink many times. If you would have asked me in March if I thought this would be possible, I would have been in disbelief. My brother is adjusting incredibly well. He comes with me to visit mom and enjoys being in our noisy household. I look over at him when we are in the mix of the hustle and bustle and he is smiling.

I returned to work and I have been doing really good. I feel like I am reenergized. I have started school to work towards my Masters degree. So professionally I am on a better path too. I was exploring getting out of nursing all together, but with lots of prayer and self discovery, I feel this is where I am supposed to be. I actually had a supervisor come up to me the other night and said, “Thank you for everything you did tonight, you are a great nurse”. It made me smile, because it validated that I am where I’m supposed to be.

So have faith in God even in the storms of your life. Storms don’t last forever. They might seem that way, and I am not totally out of my storm yet, but I know with God at the wheel, I will end up where I need to be.

Faith Bible Verses

  • To keep your faith strong, you have to visit God in his house (Church), don’t be Gods college kid, who only shows up if they need something, or calls once in awhile.
  • Prayer is important! This is the way you communicate the good, bad, and the ugly. God listens to it all, he is just waiting for the call.
  • Finally, let God know you love him and your thankful, even in the bad times. There is always something to be thankful for. When we get in a situation, it is human nature to just concentrate on the negative.

 

Sometimes you might really have to dig to find the positive. When you do find it, hang on to it through the storm, and collect more on the way. Pretty soon the clouds will part, the sun will come out, and you will look back, and stand in amazement of the incredibly God we have. Much love! XO

 

 

Bible Verses: Anxiety/Fear, God is in control!

I really need to say this. If you are unhappy, anxious, or otherwise depressed, pick up the bible. It is well worth it, because in the bible there is a God who loves you and gives you a comfort only he can provide. At the beginning of the year, I reached a really low point. My mom almost died a few times (she was very ill), my disabled brother came to live with me, and I was completely overwhelmed. I started having panic attacks out of no where. If you never had a panic attack, I do not wish it on you. I remember my first one, it still haunts me. I was asleep, and was dreaming. I had a dream my mother and I were in a car and laughing/talking like normal. The road just ended and we drove right into a lake. As the car sank and the water came swarming in. I managed to get my seatbelt off and noticed my window was already down. I started to make my way out of the car and looked back and saw my mother struggling to undo her seatbelt. I tried to grab her and help, but I was being pulled towards the top. My air running out with every second that ticked by. I fought as hard as I could, but no matter what I did it failed. I woke up in the middle of this dream. I was breathing really fast, I could hardly catch my breath. I felt like a log was on my chest. I was really starting to panic, because I didn’t know where I was for a moment. My mom’s dog (who I also adopted), started to lick my face.  It was the only thing that brought me back to reality. It was by far one of the scariest moments in my life. I have had a few more since, but nothing like that first one. My husband has been super supportive and I am really grateful for that! I have asked him and my kids to completely rearrange our lives, and they have been awesome! When my mom gets better, she will be living with us also. That’s 2 families under a small roof.

The MVP goes to GOD! If it was not for him, I think I would still be lying in bed, with no ambition, or hope. I finally decided to stop trying to fix everything myself and just let go. Let him deal with all my anxiety, depression, and worry. So I embarked on a spiritual journey. I started to meditate. I am still struggling  with this, because it just feels so weird, so it’s a work in progress. I made a vision board. This listed goals I wanted to accomplish this year, along with bible verses and inspirational quotes. About this time my oldest son said I was becoming a hippy! Ha! I started to read more in the bible and really worked on my prayer life. It was amazing the changes, that started to take shape. It was a process, but I could feel everyday was getting, better.

Now I still continue my journey and feel a lot better, than I did only months ago. I would like to share some bible verses that helped me to get through some tough times.

  • So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
  • Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
  • “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.” Psalm 94:19
  •  “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
  • Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34

The last one I repeat to myself almost daily. “Do not worry about tomorrow, tomorrow will worry about itself”. It is a reminder for me to hold back the anxiety and to not worry about the things of tomorrow I cannot change. I need to be more concerned about the here and now. God will see me through the rest!

I also like to just lay and watch the stars. How amazing is a god who can create so much wonder in our world, and universe, and then decide, that you are needed also.  It really just blows me away. So basically, I finally said to myself, “I am worth it, and because I am worth it, I need to take better care of myself”. This meant physically along with mentally. Still working on the physical part. Ha! I really need to start exercising more. Little change at a time right! Maybe soon I will be able to post I started exercising regularly! I am proud of how far I have come. It was not easy, but I made it through. Life will continue to throw you and me hurdles. Life is difficult! I feel maybe they should have prepared us a little better in school for some of life’s crap! Maybe less quadratic equations and more how to be an adult and cope! I know I have never had to use a quadratic equation in my adult life.

My hope for anyone suffering from anxiety, depression, or fear, is to work through it. Because your worth it! A creator who made all the stars in the sky and planets, looked down, and decided the world couldn’t be with out you! Much love! XO

*****If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please reach out for help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (US) is 1-800-273-8255*****